AN: Thank you for all the support! It is very deeply appreciated!
Hermione darted from Neville's fireplace to the doorway, leaving a trail of ashes in her wake. Neville pulled out his wand and cleaned them away. Then he turned to his other guest.
Neville opened his mouth, but Severus held up a hand. "We will speak later."
Severus glided away, leaving a trail of ashes as well. The Headmaster cast another cleaning spell.
Neville leaned against the bronze floor stand and stroked Fawkes. "You'll have to forgive them. I promise they have not grown ruder over the years, only more concerned about their children."
Fawkes preened himself, as if he claiming he wasn't presentable anyway. Neville chuckled and rubbed the underside of Fawkes' chin. The bird stilled and flapped his wings.
"I must say Neville, I am very impressed with how well Fawkes has taken to you," Dumbledore's portrait began.
"I suppose he has taken quite a liking to me." Fawkes nuzzled the current headmaster.
"I don't even think he was this affectionate with me when I first tamed him."
"In your defense, he's known me a little longer than he knew you then."
"Still, it's amazing he's taken to me so well. When we first met I was barely worth a glance."
"That isn't true. Fawkes noticed you the first time you entered my office. You just hadn't gained the confidence that would command his undivided devotion."
"I suppose I've gained a little confidence." Neville rubbed Fawkes' head. "I mean, up until now I honestly didn't think I was skilled with anything other than plants. I certainly never envisioned myself owning a phoenix."
"You are the Headmaster of Hogwarts, and a very good one at that. You deserve a companion as wonderful as Fawkes."
Neville massaged the bird harder. "I will do everything in my power to care for you. You will be treated better than my Swiss cheese plant."
"Is that thing still alive?" Phineas Black asked.
"I'm transplanting it into a bigger pot tomorrow."
"How long have you had that thing?"
"Since the day I became headmaster."
"Do the leaves still have holes in them?"
"Yes, and the new ones do too. Somehow I have kept the environment conducive to that."
"Forget the weird leaves. I had no idea you could keep one alive for that long."
"I don't know if most herbologists can keep a plant so healthy," Dumbledore cut in. "But Neville is not most herbologists."
Fawkes shook his body and stood raised his head.
"So what do you think?" Neville patted Fawkes on the back. "Would you like to go down and see the Snapes?"
The bird dug its talons around the bar it was perched upon.
"You're right," Neville answered. "We should wait for them to finish their reunion with Violet. That way they can give you the focus you deserve."
"In the meantime, I suppose I should focus on feeding you." Neville blushed. "That is, if I had any idea what you'd like."
"I would have the elves bake him a loaf of bread until you find the time to pick up some bird seed," Dumbledore suggested.
"Where would I get bird seed?"
"Any gardening or pet store would do."
"So I can give him any kid of bird seed?"
"Well, his favorite is food which is usually fed to wrens, though he enjoys the occasional jelly bean too."
Neville smirked. "Jelly beans?"
The familiar twinkle returned to Dumbledore's eyes. "About once a week I would sneak him a jelly bean."
Neville now had a matching twinkle in his eye. "I suppose I can indulge him every once in a while or so."
The phoenix rubbed its head against Neville's shoulder.
It was nice to be back in the service of a worthy Hogwarts Headmaster.
Hermione gasped for breath and braced herself against the Hospital Wing doorway. "I'm apologize for coming so late."
"You're fine dear," Madame Pomfrey began. I'm surprised you got here so fast."
She took another deep breath. "How is my daughter?"
Severus appeared behind Hermione. For a moment, Madame Pomfrey wondered how he could seemingly materialize from thin air, but she supposed that would be a question for another day. "Violet is doing well at the moment. Right now her biggest issue seems to be exhaustion."
"What kind of exhaustion?" Hermione stood up straighter and evened her breathing.
"She exerted quite a bit of magic last night which means her levels are lower than usual. Given that she spent the greater part of the night in the air, that doesn't surprise me in the slightest."
"Is she physically injured?" Severus asked.
"No," Madame Pomfrey answered. "Granted I don't think she got a wink of sleep last night, but for the moment she's running on too much adrenaline to pay it much mind."
"Is she suffering from hypothermia or dehydration?"
"She was slightly dehydrated when she returned, but it was nothing a few glasses of water couldn't fix. I couldn't find any sign of hypothermia."
The tension left Hermione's body.
"Is Violet conscious?" Severus asked. "We do not wish to awaken her if she is asleep…"
"She is actually talking to Rose right now. I'm sure she'll be excited to see you."
"I hope Rose isn't tiring her out."
"Believe me, that girl has not spent one minute with a closed mouth since she marched into Hogwarts with Fawkes by her side. She will have more than enough energy to speak with her parents."
"I just want to see her," Hermione stepped into the Hospital Wing. "Even if she's asleep I just want to see that she's well."
Madame Pomfrey made her way through the rows of unused cots. "Honestly, if you looked at her you would have no idea that she'd spent any time in the woods at all."
"That is nice to hear," Hermione replied, her voice betraying her skepticism.
"We found a family of dormice yesterday."
Severus' ears perked.
"The mother had just given birth. The babies were so adorable. I'll have to give you a memory of them."
"I am surprised you did not take one home with you," Rose replied.
"I was tempted to, I really was, but they wouldn't be happy spending their life in a cage . I figured saving them from the nearby fox was all the kindness they needed from me."
"How did you save them from a fox?"
"I made some leaves rustle in the opposite direction. I don't know what it did once it ran away."
"Perhaps it found another hapless victim."
"Maybe," Violet sat up straighter. "Honestly the longer I was there the worse I felt for Mum. I know she was being hunted by Death Eaters and fleeing Fenrir's men when she last went to the Forest of Dean, but there is so much amazing wildlife there. I almost wish I could've stayed another week just to see what else would have appeared."
"In a few years you may be asked to lead an expedition into the Forest of Dean." Severus loomed over his daughters. "It could be a school project for the College of the Appalachians."
Hermione embraced her youngest daughter. "It is so great to see you again, Little Petal."
"It's great to see you too, Mum."
Hermione squeezed her daughter closer to her chest. "The next time you decide to camp in the Forest of Dean, please give us at least a month's warning."
Hermione released Violet, allowing Severus to hug her. "We were so worried about you."
"There was no reason to," Violet answered. "Hagrid took excellent care of me."
"Where is Hagrid?" Hermione asked as Severus let go of his daughter.
"He should be here soon," Violet replied. "A half hour ago he sent me a Patronus saying he was just packing up our supplies. He plans to apparate to Hogwarts and see me as soon as possible."
"I would imagine he cannot wait to tell everyone how you discovered Fawkes and reunited him with his true home," Rose replied.
Violet's grin evaporated. For the first time all morning, her voice was reverent rather than triumphant. "That's just it though, I didn't find Fawkes."
"You don't need to be so modest," Hermione put her hand on Violet's shoulder. "Even if Hagrid was the one who pointed him out, you still persuaded him to come home."
"Hagrid didn't find him either."
"If he just appeared you at least noticed him," Severus answered. "That is the same as finding him."
"No, you don't understand," Violet's voice was distant. "I didn't find him; a spirit did."
Rose raised an eyebrow. "A spirit?"
"Was there a ghost in the forest?"
"He was too warm to be a ghost, but he was ethereal."
"Did he give any indication of who he was?" Rose asked.
"I don't know," Violet admitted. "All he did was give me this cryptic message I think I was supposed to tell Dad something."
Violet locked eyes with her dad. "The spirit said you two were now even."
The little color in Severus' face evaporated. "He said we were now even?"
"Wait," Rose's throat went dry. "Did this spirit have emerald eyes?"
Violet's eyes grew. "How did you know?"
Rose relaxed. "I have recently discovered that this family has a green eyed protector."
Violet twisted her lips. "How do you know that?"
Rose exhaled. "Let's just say that when I needed advice on a matter, the same spirit came to me and gave me direction."
"Yes" Hermione choked. "He came to me when I was sick in December too."
"I too have seen him," Severus' throat constricted. "After I fought with Fenrir, I almost went to the afterlife with our green eyed protector. Thankfully I persuaded him to allow me to return home."
"So, if he's so helpful to this family, has Victor ever seen him?"
"I think he has," Hermione replied.
"Truly?" Rose asked.
"Yes," Hermione answered. "Victor said when he was five that in the middle of a particularly bad thunderstorm a green eyed spirit came to play with him. He said it gave him sense of peace."
"Did you believe him at the time?" Violet asked.
Hermione swallowed. "I didn't know what to believe honestly. Now though, I am convinced he saw our green eyed protector."
"Wow," Violet took a moment to compose herself. "Does this protector have a name?"
"Yes," Rose replied. "His name is Harry Potter."
"Wait," Violet shook her head. "You mean to tell me Mum's best friend, Harry Potter, drops in on us from time to time just to help us?"
"He does," Rose answered.
"And the debt he repaid was that whole doe incident, wasn't it?"
"Indeed it was, though it was unnecessary. Any debt he owed me has been repaid tenfold." Severus held his youngest daughter once more.
"Indeed," Rose's eyes misted. "Indeed it has been."